Imagine back to being 15 years old. If you haven’t reached that age yet, then think about your current age. If you are 15, like me, then this works great. Now, think about writing a song that captivates the world, becoming #1 on the United States modern rock and mainstream rock charts. That’s a bit harder, huh? Now of course, we all know Silverchair accomplished this with their runaway single and their claim to fame, Tomorrow. Straight out of Australia, a demo version of the song took the country by storm, instantly climbing to the top of the Australian charts. Once the band released their debut full-length album, Frogstomp, Tomorrow became a huge success in America as well. This single paved the way for Silverchair to become the biggest band ever out of Australia, only at age 15.
Daniel Johns- Vocals, Guitar
Chris Joannou- Bass
Ben Gillies- Drums
Silverchair showed up a bit late for their debut, releasing Frogstomp in 1995, a time when the grunge era began to fade away with the death of Kurt Cobain as well as the original grunge bands beginning to break up or just get old and lose interest. A new wave of bands was taking the radio airwaves by storm under a title called post-grunge. Silverchair, with Frogstomp, became one of the most successful post-grunge bands of all time. The band managed to create catchy music while maintaining the gritty, dirty grunge sound characterized with bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. However, unlike Cobain, Daniel Johns makes a great guitar player, able to play tight with the rest of his band while still singing. Never does his guitar playing become sloppy and he always remains under control. He manages to play slow and reserved as well as fast and aggressive, sometimes all in one song.
Unlike most grunge bands of the time, Silverchair had their own little flair in their music. The album opener Israel’s Son shows off their technique perfectly. The song opens with a slow, catchy bass riff. The song continues along with distorted bass and guitar playing along this riff, and Daniel singing about hate. However, the song lets all the restraint and tension built up by the slow tempo break loose, racing to the end once approaching 1:30 left in the song. The first tempo change doesn’t seem much and sort of a let down, seeming as if the band can only do a slower tempo. However, the band changes the tempo again, going even faster. Now they really have something going here, making a great headbanger. With 30 seconds left, the song reaches an almost punk rock speed, still playing that same versatile riff. The band does it again in Faultline, starting as a typical rock song with clean guitar on the verses and a powerful distorted climax in the chorus. After going through two verses and choruses, the song enters a slightly faster, much more rocking riff. The riff changes to an almost metal style build up and then a death metal grunt similar to Mikael Akerfeldt opens to an early Incubus style riff. This riff closes out the song, completely different from the beginning of the song.
One thing immediately noticeable about Silverchair is how akin Daniel Johns sounds to just about every grunge singer in history. At this stage in his career, he never reached out to find his own voice. His voice is surprisingly strong and deep for a 15 year old, showcasing the power of Chris Cornell and the angst of Eddie Vedder. However, his lyrics are quite simple, never really making any original lines out of his stories. Everything seems all too angry and rehashed. Of course, at only age 15, there isn’t much he has experienced and can’t build off of much. Some of his lyrics are just childish, with lines like “People makin’ fun of me.” He attempts to rhyme and makes his lyrics fall because of the attempted rhyme. Once again, making a more adequate singer than Cobain by staying on pitch and having a better quality about his voice, Johns stands out as a good grunge singer, but he never sounds original.
For all the good songs on the album, Frogstomp has just as many mediocre, bland songs. The band tries too often to make slower, less powerful songs and never succeeds to the greatness of Isreal’s Son or Pure Massacre. Many songs reach a distorted climax at the end of the songs rather than the chorus, a good idea, but the climaxes are often disappointing and never reach a true, powerful climax. One of the worst attempts exists in Suicidal Dreams. It starts off with a pretty generic clean guitar melody. The song drags along with a normal song format. With just a little less than a minute left, the guitar switches to full distortion and Daniel screams the title of the track. However, the riff is terrible, generic, and boring. The climax is an extreme letdown. Even in the more rocking songs, the riffs are too simple and generic, such as Undecided. A three note guitar riff is the main instrumental theme and it sounds all too familiar. The song fails to impress throughout.
Frogstomp is a great debut for Silverchair. It single-handedly sealed their place in Australian culture, the American music scene, and stands out as one of the greatest post-grunge albums of all time. However, the band went on to produce further, more successful albums, most noticeably Neon Ballroom. At only 23, the band released a 4th album with Diorama. Where most bands are entering their first taste with success, Silverchair are rock veterans.
+ Some great, original riffs
+ Excellent progression and intensity build throughout tracks
+ Johns’ strength in his voice
- Johns’ unoriginal voice and lyrics
- Bland, uninspired riffs
- Lackluster drumming